Despite being a reasonably experienced scuba diver, I had never seen a “bommie”, something Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef is famous for. A couple of years ago, the chance to see one of these shaggy column-like mounds of coral finally took me there. My first bommie not only turned out to be a spectacular sight, a miniature self-contained habitat like a tiny underwater island, but was enhanced by a gigantic manta ray gently flapping its wing-like fins, performing an underwater ballet right above it. When a turtle happened to swim by for good measure, the Great Barrier Reef had won me over completely.
Talking to the other divers on the boat, we’d all been drawn to the Great Barrier Reef to see the world’s largest coral formation and its vast variety of ecological habitats and marine species. Not only were we spellbound by its otherworldly beauty, it made us understand the importance of preserving this precious environment.
Underwater tourism is opening the ocean up to travellers, offering them the chance to see the marine world that covers 70% of our planet. New, high-profile openings – such as the world’s first underwater hotel, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, which opened in 2018; the world’s largest underwater restaurant Under in Norway, opened in 2019; and the hot new trend of underwater art galleries, such as 2019’s Ngaro Underwater Sculpture Trail in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands – are all bringing more people into contact with marine sites.